Four cases of hepatitis A in New Zealand have been linked to imported frozen berries.
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Elderly people and those with chronic liver damage are being advised to avoid frozen berries. Anyone concerned about eating frozen berries can boil them before eating them. Cooking them for a minute at over 85°C will also inactivate the virus. Washing the berries will not remove the risk.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has instigated a surveillance programme that includes testing berries being imported and those that are already in the country.
MPI director of plants, food and environment Peter Thomson said: “Our investigations to date have not revealed a specific cause, but there is an association with consuming imported frozen berries. Recent outbreaks in other countries also suggest this link.”
Dozens of people were infected with hepatitis A in Australia after eating imported frozen berries earlier this year, leading some products to be recalled. MPI said there wasn’t enough information to initiate a targeted product recall so all brands and batches of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and boysenberries were subject to the risk.
Hepatitis A is spread through contact with the faeces of an infected person, being in close contact with an infected person or sharing their personal items like towels and toothbrushes.
Symptoms include fever, skin jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, dark-coloured urine and fatigue. It takes 15-50 days for the symptoms to show up after becoming infected.
If you are concerned about your health you should see a doctor or call the Ministry of Health’s Healthline – 0800 61 11 16.
Update: some Fruzio berries have been recalled as a result of MPI’s investigation.